Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Mark A. Cruz
Updated: Sep 17
Speaker Spotlight is a new feature on our blog! We interview experts in the field and learn more about what they do. This month, we talked with Dr. Mark A. Cruz.
Dr. Cruz graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in 1986 and started a dental practice in Monarch Beach, CA upon graduation. He has lectured nationally and internationally and is a member of various dental organizations, including the AAGO, NAAFO, Pacific Coast Society for Prosthodontics, and the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry. Dr. Cruz was a part-time lecturer at UCLA and a member of the faculty group practice. He was a past assistant director of the UCLA Center for Esthetic Dentistry.
Dr. Cruz has served on the National Institute of Health/NIDCR (National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research) grant review committee in Washington D.C. and is currently serving on the DSMB (Data Safety Management Board) for the NPBRN (National Practice-Based Research Network overseen by the NIDCR) as well as on the editorial board for the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice (Elsevier).
In addition to his many professional achievements, Dr. Cruz continues to bring the latest science and his extensive clinical expertise in restorative and airway-focused dentistry to his patients in the Orange County area.
Dr. Cruz recalls how he came to enter the field of dental sleep medicine, how his practice has evolved, and where he focuses his efforts today:
For Dr. Cruz, the call to airway and sleep was personal.
"My aha moment was when my then 6-year-old son ended up in the emergency room with a severe 'asthmatic' attack secondary to respiratory reflux that was misdiagnosed."
Since then, Dr. Cruz has spent the past 11 years practicing and teaching airway focused dentistry. During that time, he has have led efforts in "developing protocols and algorithms for addressing structure, function and behavioral risk factors pertaining to disordered or compensated breathing and sleep."
A focus on wellness and interdisciplinary care is central to Dr. Cruz's clinical philosophy.
"My primary area of expertise is in taking a global, interdisciplinary approach using a medically indicated philosophy for dental interventions to treat disordered breathing and sleep fragmentation."
We asked Dr. Cruz to comment on the state of the field, and where he sees an opportunity for dentists incorporating dental sleep medicine in their practice:
"The dental profession is in a perfect position to address breathing and sleep disorders beyond a management approach since craniofacial risk factors and myofunctional disorders loom as major, and typically unrecognized, risk factors by sleep physicians. Moreover, OSAS represents an end-stage diagnosis that is only the tip of the breathing disorders iceberg. Inspiratory flow limitation in the form of upper airway resistance syndrome and sleep fragmentation is often ignored by the physician. Yet, it represents a very high incidence in the global population. A number of studies show that this large swath of the population cannot find relief in the current disease management healthcare system.
By addressing structural, functional, and behavioral risk factors, the dental professional is in the position to either cure or greatly ameliorate the problem and restore the desired quality of life and wellness in the public’s health. Interdisciplinary teamwork is a must in order to deliver integrated healthcare and runs counter to the current hyper-specialized and siloed delivery of care. In addressing breathing and sleep disorders, the dentist will have better and more predictable outcomes with dental disorders such as TMD, bruxism, erosion, chronic pain, etc. There has been no more rewarding time to be a dental professional than the epoch we are in now."
Where you can learn more from Dr. Cruz:
Dr. Cruz serves as a Director of the Airway Focused Dentistry Mini-Residency he co-developed with Dr. Barry Rapheal. He continues to help dentists build a strong foundational understanding of craniofacial development, respiratory and sleep physiology through virtual and live courses. In their mini-residency and advanced coursework, Dr. Cruz and Dr. Rapheal provide dentists with a framework for developing an integrative care plan to supplement traditional dental and orthodontic interventions and improve patient outcomes.
To see a list of courses and events, visit: https://www.airwaycollaborative.com